Bath & Body Care Advice

Cuticle Peeling: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

woman's hands

Proper nail care involves more than just your filing and painting your nails—it includes taking care of your cuticles, too. Cuticle peeling can not only ruin the look of a manicure, but it can also be quite uncomfortable and painful. Even if you feel like you’re taking care of your nails, peeled cuticles can seem to spring out of nowhere, and they’re not always the easiest problem to get rid of. Plus, they can lead to other issues if left untreated.

“The cuticles provide a tight seal between the skin and the nail plate, preventing the entry of bacteria, viruses and fungi,” says dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban. “When the cuticles become dry, they lift and the nail can become infected.” No one deserves to live with hands covered in peeling cuticles, but it takes a little bit of care to ensure that your cuticles stay healthy and intact. We spoke with Shamban and few other dermatologists and nail care technicians to give you the lowdown on what causes cuticle peeling and how you can treat and prevent it.

Causes of Cuticle Peeling

Cuticle peeling can occur for a number of reasons, whether it’s your everyday habits or how you tend to take care of your nails. Here are some of the major reasons why you might be experiencing cuticle peeling:

  1. Skin dryness/Lack of moisture
  2. Excessive hand washing
  3. Too much hand sanitizer
  4. Nail polish remover
  5. Harsh weather
  6. Eczema
  7. Malnutrition
  8. Certain medications, for example, chemotherapeutic agents
  9. Cuticle biting
  10. Nail biting/poor nail care

Depending on the cause of your cuticle peeling, treatment methods can vary. However, there are a number of different ways you can not only treat cuticle peeling, but prevent it as well. Here are some solutions, depending on the cause.

For Dry Hands: Try a Moisture-Rich Hand Lotion

Since less hand washing is not an option for most people, prevention of dry, peeling cuticles is very important. In addition to wearing gloves when doing the dishes or cooking, make sure you’re applying moisturizer to your hands daily. “Moisturizing is crucial for every inch of our skin, including the cuticles,” says Natasha Poliakov, co-owner of Marina and I Nail Salon

As far as moisturizers go, celebrity manicurist Rachel Shim suggests using Dermelect’s Timeless Anti-Aging Daily Hand Treatment, which uses a protein-peptide complex to condition and hydrate the skin, sealing in moisture. “It also features a water-reactivated formula, which is ideal for frequent hand washers,” she says.

You can also opt for a more natural solution and use olive oil, suggests Poliakov. “Wash your hands, gently towel-dry them and apply oil on every fingernail and cuticle,” she says. “Softly massage and let soak in for a few minutes, and then wipe them off with some soft tissue.”

For Dry Cuticles: Try Cuticle Oil

“Cuticle oil adds moisture and hydration to the nails and cuticles, making it difficult for splitting and peeling to occur,” says Shim. Something like SpaRitual Cuti-Cocktail Nail and Cuticle Oil can help simultaneously soften and condition your nails and cuticles, thanks to its ingredients like soothing aloe and essential oils.

For Too Much Nail Polish Remover/Hand Sanitizer: Try Alcohol-Free Products

You don’t have to ditch your nail polish remover or hand sanitizer altogether—just switch up the type you’re buying. “Use alcohol-free, no-drying hand sanitizer,” says dermatologist Maral K. Skelsey, MD. “Also, use acetone-free polish remover.”

For Poor Nail Care: Try a Better Nail Salon

“Good manicures are very important,” says Poliakov. “Before you make your appointment for a manicure, make sure the tech you are planning to see is licensed, reputable and clean. Instruments need to be sanitized and sharp. Cuticle nippers that are not sharp enough can cause more peeling.”

Overall, it’s important to keep your hands out of water as much as possible, moisturize your hands and cuticles daily with creams and oil and choose a good nail technician when it comes to getting your manicures. Your cuticles will thank you later.

Freelance Writer

Carina Wolff

Carina Wolff is a health and wellness writer based out of Los Angeles. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology. When she’s not writing, doing yoga or exploring mountains and beaches, she spends her time cooking for her healthy food blog, Kale Me Maybe.